Filtering by Tag: growing organic vegetables in Canberra

Week 23: Creative Challenge 52

Telenas Dyed Silk

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, is off at a workshop this weekend and her creative contribution is the silk she prepared for use at the workshop. It was her first attempt to dye a long swathe of silk, so she was a bit nervous. She needn't have worried. The result is gorgeous.

Telena used the dyed silk to make prefelt (a combination of silk and fleece) for the workshop, and she's shared photos of the process. Here's the silk laid out and ready to dye.

Ready to go

Splashing and blending silk dyes...there's no turning back now.

No turning back

The final result. Looking good, Telena!

Dyed silk

The mess - even with gloves on, Telena managed to dye her hands.

Dyed hands

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has had another big week helping her daughter Maria make restaurant quality petit fours. There was no all-nighter required this week, but plenty of late nights or, should I say, early mornings. Hopefully we'll see some photos when the weekly routine is better established.

Trish has also been busy with an impressively creative Allaboutwriting project. She's been designing a book cover for a collection of short stories that were written on an Allaboutwriting short story weekend last year. One of the writers had started working on the cover some months ago, but because the editing process took quite a bit of time, the writer is now in the process of moving from Uzbekistan to South Africa and the high res files are stuck on her computer somewhere in the middle of the ocean. It's taken Trish a few iterations to get to this point, but she's pretty happy with the result, notwithstanding the fact that she plans to make a few changes including, perhaps, experimenting with different fonts. In the meantime, here is her cover design. Keep your eyes peeled for this forthcoming publication!

Trishs Bookcover

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has had to get extra creative this week in order to submit anything at all. He had two performances of The Rabbits last Sunday, with more Rabbits shows on Monday and Tuesday.

The Rabbits

Then he took the red-eye special to Melbourne for Strange Bedfellows performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, with a final Bedfellows show to deliver tonight. There were 36 hours somewhere in that mix where he didn't sleep, and his memories of this lost time are vague, but he's quite sure he was creative at some point. And he took these photos to prove it.

Strange Bedfellows take Melbourne by storm

Keryn Clark

Keryns Flowers

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has been creative with the last of the Valentine's roses, exploring a variety of textures. She ordered some amaranthus from Sydney and the flowers showed up in spite of the cyclone. Amaranth always invokes New Orleans and the Everglades for Keryn, with thoughts of strange trailing plants, white girls looking for velvet (a nod to Toni Morrison's character Amy in Beloved), wearing crinoline and hiding behind fans. So this arrangement is a little bit gothic, a little bit fading beauty, and slightly mad.

More flowers
Keryn says it with flowers

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been on an unusual creative mission this week. She had a single day in which to source a complete wardrobe for a video production she's working on in a few weeks' time. The video requires a number of different outfits so this was no small task. Mission accomplished, however - job done!

Georgias video wardrobe

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has been working with Year 1 and 2 students on nursery rhymes in the last couple of weeks and they've been going round and round in his head. He's experimenting with some composition techniques and has created this little opus containing three well known nursery rhymes - with a twist.

Scarlet Bennett

We're still drowning in produce from our bountiful organic garden and I've had to be creative on a daily basis to find ways to use it.

Our freezer is full of homemade tomato sauce and pumpkin soup, and there's more tomato sauce simmering on the stove as I write. I invented a new way to make use of our plentiful figs - fig, banana and walnut muffins - starting with a semi-sweet homemade fig jam. These are a real winner with the family.

Finally, on a more traditional note and motivated by sheer self-indulgence, I made a large batch of chocolate scrolls today. These are going to be popular lunch box items this week.

Scarlets baking

Week 22: Creative Challenge 52

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has some very exciting news this week. The new Gold Coast florist shop that we've been hearing about, Bloom in Design, is open for business! Here, for your enjoyment, is Fourteen days in the life of Bloom in Design.

Keryns Finished Shop Fit-Out

What started out as a vague idea as Keryn sat at her computer in Perth a mere four months ago, suddenly took shape and became real. Today's photo journey starts with a blank room on the Gold Coast, after Keryn and her business partner, Remy, took ownership of this space on 1 February.

Keryn had analysed the specs from the plans she'd received by email and she knew what needed to be done when they moved in - after five days they opened their doors.

Keryn's job is concept, planning, promotion and knitting things together, and for the last few months she felt like she was pushing a cart up hill. Then suddenly the shop came together and it was Valentine's week. What a great time to open a florist shop.

At the beginning of the week, they didn't even have a flower supplier. In desperation, Keryn found a grower in Sydney on Facebook and phoned to ask if he shipped to the Gold Coast. The answer was 'yes', so she ordered a shipment of flowers two days later, which he promptly sent to Brisbane, a hundred kilometres away from Bloom in Design. One courier and $300 later, they had flowers.

Keryn made a You Tube video, which she had to learn to do very quickly, to promote the opening...

Their website, which is currently just a placement page, comes from an arrangement Keryn photographed before they left Perth. She liked it so much she sent it to their graphic designer for use as part of their brand. Next came set-up of the social networking sites, which Keryn has linked to the website. She's been bombarding them with photographs ever since, trying to establish a social media presence.

But the real joy in this project came for Keryn on Valentine's Day when four out of five of her own arrangements sold within a couple of hours. She hasn't historically been known for her floristry skills, although she has trained as a florist. Remy, her business partner, usually gets the accolades while Keryn hides in the back room doing something essential but boring. She was allowed to play on Valentine's Day and was very happy to sell her arrangements.

Keryns Valentines Day Flowers

Keryn also did flowers for two restaurants as a marketing exercise, which netted them four customers.

And finally, realising that they were overstocked as a result of not yet knowing their market, she drove to their local supermarket, which had been under-supplied with flowers, and sold twelve assorted arrangements which were gone within thirty minutes. All this from staring out of her window in Perth, playing with arrangements on her kitchen table, and taking photographs of them because she was bored.

Keryns Flowers

Congratulations Keryn and Remy. It's a beautiful shop.

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh's week began with the promise of some spare time for felting, but everyday life somehow got in the way. She started the week by making some felt balls to be used in future jewellery projects.

Telenas Felt Balls

Having seen one of her felting friends felt around a teapot several years ago in a workshop, she's always thought it would be a fun thing to do, with a beautifully insulated teapot a further attraction. Telena cut strips of prefelt in different colours and wove them around the teapot. After wetting down with soapy water, she gently rubbed the surface. This proved more difficult than expected as some areas were awkward to felt around. With much perseverance, the fleece began to felt and shrink around the form of the teapot. She felted a little cap for the teapot lid (how cute is that?), and she thinks she'll felt the teapot cover further in the coming days. For now, she's off to make a nice hot cup of tea.

felting a teapot
Telenas Felted Teapot

Trish Urquhart

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been sharing her culinary talents with her daughter Maria this week.

Maria has secured a job making petit fours for a restaurant in Johannesburg, and she was due to deliver her first batch this week. Trish pulled an all-nighter (with other family members also forgoing sleep) to act as kitchen hand and assist with the preparations. Maria's petit fours were a big success and now that Maria has fully developed her recipes, Trish thinks she'll manage the workload independently in the future.

Trish and Richard are in Magoebaskloof in Limpopo this weekend, staying with their friend Merle of Barok, and Trish has taken some nature photos for her contribution. They make me want to down tools and head straight outdoors.

Trishs Lichen Photos

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has given in to temptation and declared his creative challenge The 52 Week Shoe Challenge. And it's just as well, because his amazingly glitzy shoes just keep coming.

He needed these shoes, he said (and we all believe him), to go with the opening night shirt he purchased, but in the absence of any craft store that he could locate, he's pleased to present his first Zara/reject shop creative hybrid. The original Zara shoe was $20 down from $90, and only had appeal because of the silver leather around the edge.

Shoe makeover

The transformation was achieved with craft paint and glitter, all secured with hair spray. The shoes were quite a hit on opening night, although Kanen expected them to be trashed by evening's end. He was wrong. They're rock solid and can now happily take their place in his regular rotation. So now he has new shoes and a new technique up his sleeve. Expect to see more hair spray spectaculars in the future.

Kanens shoe transformation

Georgia Bennett, Stephen Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, enlisted Stephen Bennett's help for her creative contribution this week. You may remember from last week that Steve has embarked on a project to develop his video production skills. And Georgia has been keen to improve the quality of her You Tube recordings. They joined forces this week to see if they could improve on the results Georgia's been getting with our very basic set-up. They've achieved a great result - far and away the best yet.

Georgia also made some stunning treats by playing around with the raw, organic chocolate recipe she posted a few weeks ago. This time, she made peanut butter cups and also some delicious mint chocolate. The chocolate was very rich last time, so we added blended macadamias to the basic chocolate recipe to give a creamier result - a trick inspired by reading the ingredients on a variety of raw, organic chocolate bars - and it's a real improvement. Neither of these creations is going to last long around here.

Georgias Chocolates

Scarlet Bennett

People who know me well know that I'm far from a last minute wonder. I always like to prepare for deadlines in advance. But this week, that turned out to be impossible and I had a real scramble to the finishing line. I woke yesterday morning with no creation even underway, and the obvious solution was to attempt something with a Valentine's Day theme. I made this bold heart using polymer, black onyx, a dried flower from my garden, and resin. It's not finished yet - I'll make the edges sharp once the resin is properly set, but it's an interesting piece that will look really good with the right outfit.

Valentine's Pendant

As is always the case when you're incredibly busy, all sorts of other things demand attention. We're absolutely drowning in garden produce at the moment and I'm determined not to waste a morsel. So this weekend's cooking output has included: pumpkin soup, crumbed eggplant, Afghan eggplant curry, Italian tomato sauce, and fig jam. I also made a double batch of banana, walnut and cinnamon muffins and some delicious nut loaves for the freezer. A nice, productive weekend all round.

cooking with garden produce

Week 21: Creative Challenge 52

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been up to his famous shoe tricks again. He's submitted this week's creation from sunny Perth, where he reports that hotel crafts completely rock. He says he can't sleep in work accommodation unless there's a liberal sprinkling of sequins, paint and glue on the carpet (can you imagine how popular he is with the cleaners?).

He bought these hideous shoes for $5 and dragged them across the Nullarbor with the express purpose of a cheeky debazzling, and - voila! Given the fact that people are stopping to stare at his sparkly specs, he expects these little lovelies to stop traffic.

Kanens Shoes In Progress

'You know the drill,' he said. 'Paint, glue, sequins, RESULT!'

He forgot his masking tape so the lines aren't as crisp as previous efforts, but they'll get Kanen through the next twelve days in the style to which he's become accustomed, and may even form part of his artsy/casual opening night look if they don't fall apart first (they're not exactly a sturdy shoe).

Kanen says he has an enormous week ahead of him and he wonders what on earth he's going to create during the cracks in his crazy schedule. Hopefully no shoes, he says, but he makes no promises. Just as well. There's an unlikely promise if ever I've heard one.

Kanens Finished Shoe Transformation

Keryn Clark

South African born writer, florist and cake whizz, Keryn Clark, has survived the arduous process of moving, and is busy in her new Gold Coast home, setting up her florist shop. She spent time in Melbourne and Sydney when she first left Perth to set up supply chains and have a look around. While she was there, she created a photo story of her travels.

Her story began with a house sporting a beard - Hipster House, she's called it.

Keryns Hipster House

She walked from St Kilda to South Yarra and beyond looking for flower shops. Some wouldn't let her take photos so she had to go undercover to get these snaps. She saw these places as oases in an urban landscape.

Keryns Urban Oases

The Victorian building squashed between the pop-up and fast food outlets somewhere near Chapel Road reminded Keryn of bloated decrepitude. And the urban art she found struck her as 'voices from the underground'.

Keryns urban art photos

Keryn has (cleverly) named the last two houses Monobrow and Opposites Attract. Love it!

Monobrown and Opposites Attract

Telena Routh

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has continued with her jewellery theme, creating felt dreadlocks of different lengths and widths.

Inspired by a photo in the Good Weekend magazine a few weeks ago, she's created two necklaces with a chain-like effect. The darker of the two was made with lots of short felt ropes, the lighter was made from a very long dreadlock that Telena looped around itself.

Telenas Felt Chains

The final necklace combines five thin felt ropes. It's fastened with a clasp, which means it can be worn in a variety of ways - as it falls, twisted or knotted (see photos below).

Telenas felt necklace

Telena says she's been enjoying making smaller pieces lately, but she's also planning some larger pieces. School went back last week, so she's been busy teaching again, and arranging music on Sibelius. Felting time just got that bit more scarce, but I'm sure that won't hold her back.

Trish Urquhart

Trishs Curtains

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been busy on a number of creative fronts this past week.

She's making a set of refurbished curtains for their rental unit. The original curtains were made by Richard's mother in 1965. Trish has re-lined them, as the fifty year old lining was totally rotten on the edges. And she cut off the old tops, threw away the rotten tape, and made a new tab top to replace the old, damaged pieces.

Trishs Curtain Refurbishment

Trish also made an ostrich frittata, using an ostrich egg that novelist Jo-Anne Richards bought in Calvinia on her drive to Johannesburg from Cape Town. She made it with prawns, basil, red onions and gruyere, and Trish reports that it was delicious. To see more of Trish's exciting food adventures, visit her fabulous food blog.

Trishs Ostrich Egg Frittata

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has had a demanding week. She's been sick with a virus that spread through the family with the impressive efficiency of falling dominoes, and she started at a new college on Monday as well.

Nevertheless, she found the energy to make a delicious tomato sauce on Friday afternoon using tomatoes and oregano from our garden. The tomatoes were a mixed batch - all organic and open-pollinated, with a number of heirloom varieties in the mix. The end result was as delicious as it was colourful.

Tomato Sauce

If you think it looks like the tomatoes weren't skinned, you're right, and I'm to blame for that culinary heresy. I attempted to make an authentic sauce once, painstakingly pealing all the tomatoes, and decided - long before the task was done - that life was too short. Ever the pragmatist, I've taught Georgia to make fresh tomato sauce with the skins intact - which makes sauce-making a quick and easy job - and we blitz the end result in a powerful blender. No one who tastes it is any the wiser.

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has made a video that is - in his words - truly dreadful. As a neophyte movie producer he came up with the idea of an exciting, gut wrenching thriller called the Kiss of the Carrot, starring Duke and Velvie, with a support cast of extras from Paddock 2.

Things he thinks he learnt in the process:

  1. Learn how to turn the video camera on to record. The red light means it's recording and the green light means it's not. He got this basic concept wrong for a total of 32 takes.
  2. Make sure the microphone is out and working, and use the wind shield when filming en plein air.
  3. Don't try and make a film while feeding horses by yourself.
  4. Don't use daggy scene transitions from the software package.

He feels that his future as the next Fellini is imminent, so he's decided to show his first picture warts and all as a point of reference for future blockbusters.

This short one-acter comes with a warning - it really is awful.

The end.

Scarlet Bennett

Flower Pendant

I made some old style jewellery this week - just trinkets really - for the fun of it. The resin wasn't even dry, however, before the pieces were claimed. Hannah and Georgia have adopted these pendants and I'm delighted they've gone to such worthy homes. I'll probably play around some more with these techniques. They're a relaxing antidote to an overly busy work week and the end result reminds me of a much loved (deceased) grandmother.

Victoriana Rose Pendant

Week 20: Creative Challenge 52

Trishs Sage Tea

Trish Urquhart, who runs Allaboutwriting, works as a documentary producer for Left-Eye Productions, and tries her best to live up to the title chef extraordinaire, has been obsessed with sage this week.

She went on a quest to make an interesting sage tea and came up with a combination comprised of mixed sage leaves and flowers, mint, cinnamon and dried rose buds. Trish says the combination is delicious, and she's enjoyed it hot, at room temperature, and chilled. She thinks it must have all sorts of beneficial properties and one look at her photos has sold me on that idea.

Trish also made a sage 'oil' mix by blending sage leaves, olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. She kept it in a jar in the freezer and she's used it in nearly every meal this week: on baked potatoes fresh from the garden, as a baste for baked fish, served with gem squash, and used to flavour some Karoo lamb. Doesn't that sound delicious?

Check out Trish's fabulous food blog for more news of Trish's endlessly creative cooking adventures.

Kanen Breen

Opera singer and Strange Bedfellow, Kanen Breen, has been indulging his shoe fetish again. He started the week by gilding the lily on last week's creation, adding sequins to his paint job. I hear the sequins elicited no end of comment from the naysayers of last week - a very satisfying turnaround.

Kanens brown shoes

His shoes of this week were a very early sequin attempt that went sour on account of the wrong glue. The sequins all fell off on their first outing, leaving a sequin-imprinted gluey residue behind which, unlike the sequins, refused to be dislodged from the fabric. Kanen relegated the shoe's to Jacqui's garage of horrors until the other day when he unearthed them with a rescue plan in mind. A lick of peacock green metallic paint later and they've taken on a sort of reptilian scale effect which Kanen quite likes. He painted the grey lace section gold, so they're not only glamtastic, but patriotic too. This creative legend will be outfitting Australian Olympians in no time.

Kanens Peacock Shoes

Telena Routh

Rolled Felt

Classical oboist and textile designer, Telena Routh, has had a week full of meetings, long phone calls to parents, teaching, and house guests, so her felting time has been snatched in small moments, resulting in small creations.

Telena made some flowers this week, felting the larger flower in a single piece with a plastic resist between the layers. She then shaped it to make it stand away from the base. The smaller flowers were felted in long strips, rolled up and sewn to create the bud shape. Her plan in the coming week is to make leaves and stems for some of the flowers, and to turn others into brooches.

Felt Flowers

Georgia Bennett

Singer, guitarist and song writer, Georgia Bennett, has been thinking about fashion and working on a new dressmaking idea over the past few days. She made a pattern this week from one of her favourite skirts, and she's cut out her fabric and is ready to sew. Happily, she wants her new skirt to be longer than the original (and she's added a good inch to the pattern), and that's music to any parent's ears.

Make your own pattern

Stephen Bennett

Stephen Bennett has had a huge week looking for repertoire for his new job as choirmaster at Canberra Grammar Junior School. He is responsible for six choirs, from Years 2-6, so he needs lots of different music for the different age groups and abilities involved.

He had the bright idea to make a two-part arrangement of a favourite song - Benjamin Britten's The Sally Gardens, so he wrote a second part under the melody, entered the lot into Finale, and then printed out four versions so he can use it for the choir and also for a couple of high school boys who sing duets. He loves any excuse to work with Finale as he finds it such a brilliant program.

Steves arrangment of The Sally Gardens

Steve also photographed Georgia before she went out for a birthday party on Friday night. Looking good, girl! Nice photo too.

Singer Georgia Bennett

Scarlet Bennett

My creative contribution has a garden theme this week. I dried a coreopsis flower and set it into this brass ring with resin. It's not a classic piece, by any means, but it's fun and funky and youthful. I swear it takes at least a decade off me.

Flower Ring

I've got a job list a mile long in the garden at the moment, because if I don't propagate my seeds now, I'll have no winter crops. My plants need to be well developed before the winter cold kicks in, and Canberra cold is never far away. My first tranche of seeds was started this week - around 250 seeds in total, and I need to do at least that many again over the next few weeks. Mercifully, we've had a cool spell, so I've been able to get the job done in relative comfort.

Propagating seeds

Not only is it planting time, but it's harvest time as well, and my summer crops have flourished. Here's a selection of produce picked yesterday morning to turn into a delicious Afghan eggplant curry - my friend Khatira's recipe. Yum!

Garden Harvest

Gardening is a metaphor for life

Week 13: Urban Farming

I've always tinkered in the garden, but until a few years ago I was an inconsistent gardener at best. I got more serious about it after three loved ones died one after another in a fairly short period of time. Consumed with grief and struggling in other areas of my life as well, I sought solace in the garden.

Forget me not

The thing about gardens is that they reflect experiences we go through in our own lives. Full of hope, we plant seeds, our minds focused on the bountiful harvest sure to follow. But some seeds don't grow and it doesn't seem to be possible to accurately predict which seeds will flourish and which will perish. No matter how robust the seed, how fertile the soil, and how perfect the conditions, some plants just don't grow. The same is true in life. Some things don't work out, no matter how hard we try. That's just the way it is.

Conversely, sometimes the most improbable scenarios come to pass. The seed that's planted in imperfect soil, poorly tended and left to its own devices, somehow thrives against the odds. Go figure.

Solitary Pear

Seasons come and seasons go. Seeds germinate slowly then surge out of the earth ready to take their chances in the harsh conditions of the world. Some seeds live. Some seeds die. Some bear bountiful harvests while others make a start and then wither back into the ground.

Seeing all this play out in a garden helps keep life in perspective. Change is the only constant and we can't control or predict every variable. The perception that we can is a comforting illusion, yet we all seem to be guilty at times of trying to control the uncontrollable. Still, there's much we can control and plenty of things we can do to make life (and our gardens) better. Sometimes the trick is not just in knowing the best thing to do, but in having the strength to actually do it.

Developing Grapes

This week I staked my tomatoes in the rain, celebrating the brief respite from heat as my water tanks filled. I pulled out some weeds, picked zucchinis, salad greens, beets, herbs, and sugar snap peas. And I had enough ripe produce to provide home grown food at every meal. It's not a grand achievement, as achievements go, but it's enough.

Lettuce

By the way, the nest that was built for the baby Magpie Larks that live in our garden fell out of its tree this week, its usefulness outlived. The times they are a-changing.

Magpie Lark Nest

Week 12: Urban Farming

As it turns out, I needn't have worried about the snails that appeared in our urban farm early this spring. Nature has a way of taking care of itself, and I could have spared myself the effort of researching humane snail deterrent options.

Late Spring Garden Harvest

There's a saying in psychology that gets trotted out to raise parental awareness about the likelihood of children being exposed to paedophiles. It goes something like this: 'Wherever you find prey in attractive quantities, you can be confident you'll also find predators.' The point is that predators flock to areas where they think they'll have access to prey. If you have children, take this saying to heart. Paedophiles gravitate to circumstances that provide ready access to children and it's your best interests to manage risk as if they're there.

The philosophy is drawn from nature and we've just had a classic example of how it plays out in our own backyard microcosm. Over the winter months we noticed a pair of Magpie Larks building a nest in the tree on the verge adjoining our vegetable garden. Magpie Larks build nests out of mud and they need ready access to water in order to build their little homes. They decided, apparently, that our backyard swimming pool, was an ideal water supply. We keep the pool covered all winter and that gave them an ideal platform to wade around on, collecting all the nice, wet sticks and leaves that had fallen onto the surface of the cover.

Garden Barrow

By early spring, they had a lovely little nest ready to go, and by the middle of spring we were admiring their three squawking offspring. Concerned about the possibility that they'd drink the salty water from the pool, we moved a bird bath into the middle of our vegetable patch, and we were gratified so see the beautiful little family drinking and bathing in their new ensuite spa.

This story had an unexpected ending, given the fact that we knew nothing about what Magpie Larks actually eat. You can probably guess the answer to that by now... they eat all manner of grubs that wreak havoc in vegetable gardens. Our snail problem, it seems, is now a thing of the past.

On a more mundane note, I'm pleased to report that we're harvesting mountains of produce from our urban farm already. We won't be buying salad ingredients for months and we're inundated with delicious berries. Sugar snap peas are on the menu on a daily basis and I picked my first giant zucchini yesterday. The tomatoes are flowering, we've had an explosion of passion fruit flowers, and we'll have cucumbers before you can say 'high tea at Buckingham Palace'. Crack out the fine china, cucumber sandwiches are on their way.

Passion Fruit Flower

Week 8: Urban Farming

The hot weather has arrived in Canberra and, barring an unseasonal exception, the risk of frost has now passed. Our garden is full of blooms and we're beginning to reap the rewards of earlier labour in our food garden.

LoveInAMist
LettuceandPeas

Our sugar snap peas are covered in flowers - a harbinger of tasty pods to follow - and we've got plenty of loose leaf lettuce ready to harvest. I picked our first crop of strawberries early this morning and we'll be enjoying them for dessert tonight in strawberry pancakes drizzled with chocolate sauce and served with vanilla soy ice cream.

Hannah and I picked a large tub of mulberries yesterday - our first of the season - and I made a vegan lemon, coconut and mulberry slice with them. We've been guilty, in previous years, of not making full use of our mulberry crop and I'm determined to be a better steward of our resources this year. The slice is delicious, so that's an encouraging start.

Strawberries
MulberrySlice

My research on humane ways to deal with snails has yielded some good ideas. I can surround my young seedlings with materials that snails dislike sliding across - things like grit, thistle leaves (or other spiky leaves) or straw. The straw is an obvious solution for us because I make our mulch with a combination of horse manure and straw and I was planning to put this on the garden in a couple of weeks anyway. It looks like I need to get cracking with that.

If this is not an option for you, you can also create a barrier around your seedlings using mesh or netting. The barrier doesn't need to be high and if it bends outwards at about a 45 degree angle, the snails will have trouble climbing over it.

There's a product called Escar-go Snail Spray, made from copper silicate, that snails are reluctant to cross. This is ideal for protecting planter boxes and pots.

Finally, Copper Slug and Snail Tape is an option. You stick the copper adhesive tape along the edges of your garden beds and snails get a small electric shock from the copper. This would be a last resort option for me but it's worth knowing about.

Roses

Love-in-a-mist (nigella) is one of my favourite garden flowers and I let it go to seed each year, throwing the seed liberally once the pods have dried out. I've got lots of beautiful blooms opening at the moment and I've used it for my posy this week.

LoveInAMistPosy

Week 6: Urban Farming

Spring proper has arrived in Canberra this week, and in the blink of an eye we've gone from wearing a pullover outdoors, to getting up early to head out into the garden before it gets too hot.

Pansies
Developing Pink Lady apples

Developing Pink Lady apples

All the flower seeds we propagated a few weeks ago have now been planted out and we've also planted almost all of the vegetable seedlings that we grew from seed, so our garden beds are filling up. Of course, we'd planned - for once - to be sufficiently organised to get our reticulation in first so we could position plants right near the drippers but, as usual, we haven't managed it. Somehow we always seem to be crazily busy at this time of year. So we're going to have to work around the plants now, and the task is becoming increasingly urgent as the heat increases the demand for water.

While our core crop is now in, we received a parcel in the post this week containing a variety of unusual heirlooms that I want to try this year. To give you an idea, here are some of the seeds we started this morning:

  • Beans: Baby Sun and Sex without Strings
  • Chillies: Joe's Long Cayenne (the most beautiful looking chilli plants imaginable), Hellfire Mix, Tobago Seasoning
  • Capsicums: Mini Sweet Mix (these are baby capsicums that you put straight in your mouth after you've picked them), Mixed Italian Fryers, Seven Colour Mix
  • Cucumbers: Little Potato, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Lebanese Mini Muncher (see mini capsicums above - salivating already)
  • Eggplant Heirloom Mix
  • Tuscan Black Kale
  • Pumpkins: Heirloom Mix, Turk's Turban, Kakai (for home grown pepitas), Lakota
  • Tomatoes: Lemon Drop, Wild Sweetie (the smallest tomatoes in the world), Amish Paste and Principe Borghese (ideal for drying)
  • Heirloom radishes
  • Zucchini Costata - this bears an amazing star shaped fruit.
  • Sugarbeets - an exotic vegetable that can be used in desserts as well as savoury dishes.

These varieties are so attractive that I'm keen to grown them for their sheer beauty, never mind their flavour.

Our first tranche of loose leaf lettuce is now ready for harvest.

Our first tranche of loose leaf lettuce is now ready for harvest.

Spring onion flower

Spring onion flower

Just as prey attracts predators, great food attracts hungry mouths, and we've got an army of snails munching their way through our new planted seedlings at the moment. On the one hand, I really don't mind sharing. The poor sods are only trying to keep body and soul together, after all. On the other hand, we'd like to actually eat some of the produce ourselves, so I'm going to have to find a way to limit the damage. Snail baits are not an option as I'm quite fond of snails, and killing them isn't exactly in keeping with a vegan lifestyle. I couldn't live with myself if I did. So...my mission for this week is to find a way to deter these hungry molluscs from our vulnerable seedlings. There must be something else they'd like to eat...

This week's garden posy was made with 'scarlet' carpet roses and white hebe flowers from our front garden. The carpet roses will be in flower now until next winter - very handy when I'm struggling to meet my weekly flower arrangement goal. Expect to see more of them in lean weeks.

    Garden Flowers


    Week 5: Urban Farming

    We've had a few days of solid spring rain in Canberra over the past week, accompanied by a return to cold days and frosty mornings. Happily, I'd held off planting my first tranche of frost sensitive vegetables until after that cold front had passed. We've still got about three weeks of potential frost ahead of us, but my seedlings are small and can be easily covered during that time.

    Climbing Rose
    Blackberry flower and ripening figs

    Blackberry flower and ripening figs

    This week I've braved the elements and planted out red currant, yellow currant, zebra and tigerella tomatoes, Lebanese cucumbers, Queensland Blue pumpkins, nugget pumpkins, squash, golden zucchini, zebra beans, and Black Beauty zucchini. The seedlings I planted out over the past few weeks - loose leaf lettuce, beets, silver beet and sugar snap peas - are charging ahead, and there are milder nights forecast in the next few days.

    We've had a break from heavy work in the garden this past week, enjoying instead some less arduous tinkering. It's just nice to be outside at this time of year.

    Steve's photos this week are gorgeous, as always, and our garden flower arrangement (bottom image) is white azaleas with camellia foliage.

    Our passion fruit vines are covered in blooms

    Our passion fruit vines are covered in blooms

    This week's bouquet of garden flowers - white azaleas.

    This week's bouquet of garden flowers - white azaleas.

    Week 4: Urban Farming

    It's been a flowery week in our urban farm. We have lots of gorgeous flowers in bloom and more about to burst out of their buds. I was therefore spoilt for choice when it came to choosing flowers for our weekly arrangement - it will be a very different story in winter, I can assure you. In the end, I settled on snowballs with arching tendrils of banksia rose, and Steve's created a wonderful rustic pedestal using found materials to display the arrangement for photographing.

    SnowballArrangement

    Courtesy of Steve's hard work creating more infrastructure, we now have a large, new flower bed ready for planting and Hannah and I have been busy propagating summer annuals. This week we've started:

    • Nigella (Love in a mist)
    • Moonflower
    • Edelweiss
    • Sunflowers (Italian and Giant Russian - don't ask me where we're going to plant the latter)
    • Sweet peas (Highly Scented and Painted Lady to drape over the pool fence)
    • White Cosmos
    • Marigold and Nasturtium for companion planting in the vegetable patch
    • Californian Poppy (Jelly Bean and Red Chief - for planting in pots or we'll never be rid of them)
    • Corn Cockle
    • Poached Egglplant
    The top photo in this diptych is cause for great excitement in our household. I planted passion fruit vines last spring, taking pains to find a location that would protect against the heavy frosts we get in Canberra. The vines have done well over winter and are now about to fruit.

    The top photo in this diptych is cause for great excitement in our household. I planted passion fruit vines last spring, taking pains to find a location that would protect against the heavy frosts we get in Canberra. The vines have done well over winter and are now about to fruit.

    Peaches and plums

    Peaches and plums

    Still on a flower theme, we've planted out delphiniums, blue salvia, foxgloves and coreopsis. We also planted some pansies at the front of Hannah's rose and lavender garden to grace us with colourful blooms while the rest of the garden gets established.

    In the vegetable patch, we've planted out a variety of loose leaf lettuces, radishes, beets, lovage, rosemary, tarragon, and another batch of sugar snap peas. I really don't think we can get enough sugar snaps, but at the rate I've been propagating and planting, we'll soon get to test that hypothesis.

    And I've had home grown micro greens in my sandwiches all week. Delicious!

    Big thanks to Steve for all the awesome photos this week.

    Our alpine strawberries are flowering and there's fruit on our cumquat and fig trees

    Our alpine strawberries are flowering and there's fruit on our cumquat and fig trees

    Granny Smith apple, grapes and passion fruit

    Granny Smith apple, grapes and passion fruit